The history of the Bolshoi is a history of juxtapositions: beauty, grace, incredible dancers and performances, gold leaf and red velvet get as much stage time as arson, abuse, personal grudges, and rivalries. In Bolshoi Confidential: Secrets of the Russian Ballet from the Rule of the Tsars to Today (Liveright, $35), Simon Morrison, a Princeton professor of music and author of a profile of the Prokofievs, Lina and Serge, looks at all sides of this premier ballet company, from the building that houses it, its directors and managers, to its choreographers, composers, and dancers. He fully justifies the claim that ballet is “the most Russian of arts” (even if the first Moscow ballet was started by an Englishman). Morrison also studies the Bolshoi as a cultural institution, a diplomatic tool, and a symbol of national power and pride. Indeed, the Bolshoi’s backstage life is a microcosm of modern “grime and glitz” Russia, with politics and art inextricably linked.
Ghostland is not a simple attempt to debunk or support ghost tales. Rather, it is a thoughtful look at what ghost stories mean to us and what they can tell us about our collective and national psyche. Dickey takes us to fascinating places (including a haunted Toys R’ Us), creating a spooky, unsettling, and often uneasy travelogue that goes beyond sensational ghost stories to take a deep look at memory and history. Ghostland is an insightful and remarkable regardless of your stance on ghostly apparitions.
Central Station by Lavie Tidhar is a mosaic of interconnected stories, all describing an incredibly immersive future of many cultures, beliefs, and minds. It’s beautifully-written, multifaceted in its style in characters, and filled with echoes of classic sci-fi (but without its shortcomings). Central Station is a virtual reality of a novel, with world-building so vivid and organic, it will make you feel as if this future is already here. This book is Gibson-, Bradbury-, Delany-level good, and must be on everyone’s sci-fi reading list.